Check back after December 5, 2017 to view the 2018 nominees and cast your vote.
Colorado Bar Association Modest Means Task Force Unbundling Road Shows
The CBA’s Unbundling Roadshow seeks to inform lawyers and judges about unbundling as a pathway to support access to justice for those of moderate incomes. Judges participate in the statewide tour of presentations – to solidify the perception that the court welcomes unbundling – as do attorneys who practice unbundling in the local court. Each participant is also provided the 'Practical and Ethical Considerations to Integrating Unbundled Legal Services' toolkit.
UpRight Law’s purpose is to use technology to provide access to justice. With over 350 partner attorneys across 50 states, UpRight Law aims to provide end-to-end service to eliminate common obstacles that prevent consumers from seeking legal help. Upright Law offers flexible payment plans, virtual meetings, phone/text/FaceTime communications and extended business hours. According to Upright, its model enables attorneys to deliver services to an underserved market without the cost of acquisition and to concentrate on practicing law instead of marketing.
National Database of Professionals Assisting SRLs (a project of the National Self-Represented Litigants Project)
The Canadian-based National Self-Represented Litigants Project has launched a National Database of Professionals Assisting Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs) to: (1) connect professionals working to develop responsive services for SRLs; and (2) provide information to SRLs seeking affordable services. The Database includes lawyers who offer unbundled services to litigants who cannot afford full representation in family and civil court.
The Center for Out of Court Divorce, together with The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver
IAALS launched the Resource Center for Separating and Divorcing Families (RCSDF), now replicated in the community as the Center for Out-of-Court Divorce (COCD). The COCD works in partnership with the legal system, leveraging interdisciplinary services and empowering parents going through a divorce to work together toward positive outcomes for their children. The model coordinates a package of services including: therapy, financial counseling, legal education, mediation, court filing, and a court-sanctioned final hearing with an onsite judge.
Incubator Program – Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
The Incubator program was established as an opportunity for Loyola Law School graduates who are interested in doing social justice oriented solo practice work in the Greater New Orleans area. Program attorneys receive instruction, case referrals, mentorship, peer feedback, access to a variety of resources including case management and legal research software, free office space and skills courses which focus on successfully building law practices dedicated to social justice lawyering. While building their private practices, program attorneys are required to do at least 40 hours of pro bono work a month.
Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project in the Eastern District of New York
The Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Project is a partnership between the U.S. District Court for the E.D.N.Y. and the New York City Bar Justice Center that provides free advice, limited-scope legal assistance and referrals for non-incarcerated, pro se litigants. Along with a full-time staff attorney, the Project works with pro bono associates from the private bar to assist pro se litigants by explaining federal court procedures, providing brief legal counseling, advising litigants about potential jurisdictional hurdles prior to filing suit, reviewing draft pleadings and drafting correspondence.
State Bar of Michigan 21st Century Practice Task Force Work Product
The State Bar’s 21st Century Practice Task Force was convened in 2015 to tackle problems facing the profession, including an inability to meet the legal needs of people of modest means. Its work generated recommendations that aim to expand access for people of modest means across a range of challenges including: continuing to develop online legal platforms, promoting innovative law practices and developing stronger limited scope representation programs. The work product of the Task Force also includes a “Template for Use by Other Bars” so that others can replicate the process.
DC Affordable Law Firm
DCALF is a charitable and educational nonprofit organization that operates under the concept of “low bono,” providing legal assistance to individuals whose incomes fall between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level. DLA Piper, Arent Fox and the Georgetown University Law Center, working in a unique partnership between academia and two major law firms, will each provide more than $1 million in financial and pro bono support over the next three years to provide services for modest-income D.C. residents who struggle with legal crises, but don’t qualify for free legal aid and can’t pay prevailing legal rates.
The Law Store
According to the Law Store, it models its business based on the needs of the client in response to the large numbers of people who choose to go without legal services because they are unsure of the cost or where to go, or because they cannot miss work to meet with a lawyer. The Law Store is a full-service law firm with office locations inside Walmart stores, offering free advice, menu-style pricing and extended business hours seven days a week. The Law Store currently has offices in five Walmart locations with current expansion plans for 18 additional stores by 2018.
Berkshire Center for Justice, Inc.
The Berkshire Center for Justice, Inc. (BCJ) is a nonprofit sliding-scale legal service provider that addresses legal, social and community issues together. According to the BCJ, the firm works to connect local professionals with residents who are experiencing barriers to accessing the civil legal counsel by addressing the larger social issues that lie at the root of these gaps in the service. In addition to direct legal services, the BCJ holds weekly free legal clinics, teaches clients how to self-advocate, offers community education programs, conducts interviews, and speaks publicly about the ways law and social issues interface.
Court Buddy is a patent-pending technology platform consisting of a wholly-automated system that matches consumers and businesses with solo attorneys based on the client's budget. Features include: on-demand instant messaging and videoconferencing between consumers, businesses and solo attorneys; and a payment portal allowing consumers and businesses to provide secured payment and allowing solo attorneys to manage the legal tasks they perform and collect legal fees. Additionally, a-la-carte legal services are available at flat rates.
The Unbundled Law Section of the Alaska Bar Association
The Unbundled Law Section of the Alaska Bar Association is comprised of lawyers from a variety of substantive areas who offer unbundled legal services. They meet regularly for the professional development of unbundling. In addition to maintaining a webpage explaining unbundling, the Section works collaboratively with the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Center (FLSHC) which refers litigants needing advice or assistance with a discrete issue or task to the Section’s list to find an unbundled attorney. In turn, unbundled lawyers can refer clients to the FLSHC’s online resources.
Baylor University School of Law’s Legal Mapmaker
Legal Mapmaker has two goals: to help young lawyers start a successful law practice, and to help address the access to justice gap. Legal Mapmaker is a Baylor Law School project being undertaken in cooperation with other law schools to provide a practice development template for young lawyers so that they can start a law firm efficiently, economically and ethically. According to its submission, by implementing the recommendations, young lawyers will be able to serve low and moderate income Americans and small businesses, and make a profit.
Sustainable Economies Law Center
The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) has two complementary programs aimed at increasing access to transactional legal services for low-income entrepreneurs and change-making organizations: (1) In SELC’s Resilient Communities Legal Café, attorneys and law students provide donation-based legal assistance to low and moderate income clients; and (2) SELC’s Fellowship Program is an incubator supporting attorneys all over the country who are starting new law practices and nonprofit law centers serving a similar client base.
Thistoo – Your Personal Divorce Assistant
Thistoo is a tool that aims to help self-represented litigants and users of the family law system minimize the amount of money they spend on their separation and divorce. Thistoo generates custom separation agreements, managing the entire process, and provides valuable big data case insights. Planning and organizing tools are free, and other products and services are all available individually on an unbundled basis or via a flat monthly rate. All of the users are encouraged to seek independent legal advice.
Community Lawyers of Iowa, PLC
Community Lawyers of Iowa (CLI) is a general practice law firm with a focus on family, mediation, immigration and probate law. CLI works in cooperation with non-profit service providers, and provides sliding-scale fees adjusted to household income, limited scope retainers, unbundled services, flat-rate fees, pro-se assistance and installment agreements. Sliding-scale hourly rates are based on the federal poverty guidelines and can be calculated on CLI’s website prior to scheduling a consultation.
Collaborative (Client-Lawyer) Workbook for Custody and Divorce
The Workbook for Custody and Divorce aims to reduce legal costs for moderate-income litigants and lessen the burden of case preparation on limited scope and pro bono lawyers. According to its developers, Joanna L. A. Shapiro, Esq., and Dave Pantzer, Esq., in coordination with the People’s Law Library of Maryland: it helps organize information in a standardized manner for fact development and issue-spotting; it provides a step-by-step roadmap for the client, and lets a lawyer more easily assess progress and recommend next steps; it serves as a case file when seeking legal help; and it can develop into a trial notebook with scripts and predicate questions.
Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) SmartLaw® Flat Fee Legal Service
The LACBA Flat Fee program, administrated by the LACBA lawyer referral service (LRS), addresses the justice gap by giving the public access to more affordable routine legal services. Lawyers on the LRS panel agree to offer flat fee rates for certain services that are set out in advance. Presently, the following offerings are available: LLC Business Formation: $800; Trademark Registration: $500; Uncontested divorce: $800; and Bankruptcy Chapter 7: $850.
LegalYou is an online resource providing legal education, litigation tools and legal services. LegalYou uses colorful graphics and illustrations, plain English (and Spanish) and bite-sized and entertaining, animated videos. LegalYou is fully conceived, managed and maintained by working lawyers whose direct help is available to any user through instant messaging along with live, audio, video and phone chat. Lawyer consultations and actual legal services at fixed rates as low as one dollar per minute are also available. Because LegalYou is a law firm, it can jump into full representation (or anything in between) at the client’s request.
Apps for Justice Project of the University of Maine School of Law
The Apps for Justice Project is developing a series of apps that provide self-help assistance to low or moderate income consumers who cannot afford full-scale professional legal assistance. The apps are designed to allow a user to either independently address their specific legal problem by moving them through the app from diagnosis to action plan, or to work with a “low bono” provider of legal services to more cost efficiently address legal problems.
Lawyers for Equal Justice - Georgia State Bar and Emory, Georgia State, John Marshall, Mercer, and University of Georgia Law Schools
Lawyers for Equal Justice (L4EJ) is a legal incubator for newer lawyers to start innovative, socially conscious, sustainable law practices providing affordable legal services to low and moderate income clients. According to the program, because the attorneys also learn the business side of operating a law firm, they are also able to implement innovative legal services delivery models – including limited scope representation, flat fee arrangements and sliding scale rates – in a sustainable manner.
Born out of the Robin Hood Foundation’s social impact incubator, Community.lawyer is a free directory that connects those New Yorkers who are turned away by legal nonprofits because they are over-income with lawyers who scale their fees. According to the Community.lawer directory, clients get an upfront price estimate, as well as the assurance that every lawyer on the directory is either experienced or supervised, and in exchange, lawyers increase their billable hours, which lets them keep their prices affordable.
Upsolve has created software to take pro se debtors end-to-end in a Chapter 7 case, with very limited pro bono attorney assistance. The centerpiece of the software is an intake website that uses cartoons and plain language taken from Harvard Law research, asking clients the questions needed to complete the official bankruptcy forms. The software auto populates the official forms, prior to a 1 hour pre-filing review by a pro bono attorney. By contrast, a typical chapter 7 case usually takes pro bono attorneys around 4 to 6 hours.
The LearnTheLaw.org website is a free national repository and portal for legal aid, pro bono, non-profit and community organizations to build and share self-help information for low-income people with civil legal problems. The information is presented in a learning checklist that coaches self-represented parties though legal problems, and breaks legal processes down into digestible steps for pro bono attorneys and law students. Trainings can be made available on-demand, on any device, and from any location, and because classes are stored centrally on the site, they can be easily found and replicated by other organizations.
The Pricing Toolkit of the Justice Entrepreneurs Project and the Chicago Bar Foundation
One of the core principles of the JEP – CBF's innovative legal incubator – is to make legal assistance more affordable for low and moderate income people. The Pricing Toolkit provides practical guidance for lawyers on delivering value in a way that is more predictable, transparent, and ultimately accessible for regular people. Included in “Version 1.0” of the Toolkit is a step by step guide to the pricing process that includes a discussion of the various ways attorneys deliver value to their clients, along with a handy two page “Fee Arrangement Matrix” that summarizes various alternative pricing options.
The Action Group on Access to Justice – Rural and Remote Libraries
Access to Justice: Rural and Remote Libraries is an Ontario-based project that highlights libraries as accessible gateways to legal services and information for low to moderate income individuals. Working with a range of partners, this project works to: facilitate connections between lawyers and librarians outside of urban centres; expand distribution of reliable, clear language legal information; enhance training of librarians; and produce empirical evidence that increases awareness of the contributions of librarians as access to justice agents.
Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center
Levitt & Quinn takes a multi-pronged delivery approach to address California’s legal crisis and helps people by providing free services, limited scope services and a sliding scale fee structure. Levitt & Quinn works to fill the justice gap by providing free representation in family law cases that impact the safety and well-being of children, by representing veterans in cases affecting socioeconomic and emotional barriers to integration into civilian life, and by helping families seeking to protect a child with a permanent home through independent adoption.
Maryland Courts Self-Help Centers
Among the Maryland Judiciary’s programs for litigants are its self-help centers, open to all regardless of income and offering assistance in all civil case types. Centers include: Family Law Self-Help Centers – offering walk-in assistance for divorce, custody, domestic violence and child support; District Court Self-Help Resource Centers – offering walk-in assistance in landlord-tenant, small claims, return of property and domestic violence matters; and the Maryland Courts Self-Help Center – offering remote self-help services.
Avvo Legal Services
Avvo Legal Services connects consumers with local attorneys for common legal issues, priced at $39 and higher. For immediate advice, consumers can choose an Avvo Advisor session and receive a call from an attorney that same day. If they’ve already done the work, but need a second opinion, an attorney can review their documents and suggest revisions. If the consumer needs more help, the attorney can provide start-to-finish support.
Nebraska State Bar Association Rural Practice Initiative
The NSBA established the Rural Practice Initiative (RPI) to help facilitate the placement of lawyers and summer law clerks in under-served rural communities. Law students apply for one or two 5-week clerkships or for associate positions. In addition to direct placement, the RPI has been involved in Nebraska efforts to: (1) pass a state law providing funding for law student loan forgiveness for attorneys practicing in rural Nebraska; and (2) help the University of Nebraska College of Law establish the nation’s first Rural Legal Opportunities Program.
Minnesota Appeals Self-Help Clinic
The Appeals Self-Help Clinic was founded in January of 2016 to assist pro se parties in Minnesota's appellate courts. It is currently available once per month for three hours to assist any pro se parties who have questions about the appellate process. It is staffed by volunteer lawyers who are members of the Appellate Practice Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association, as well as the staff librarians at the State Law Library.
Funded Justice relies on crowdfunding and social media to help raise funds for legal issues by providing a platform where users can create grassroots fundraising campaigns. According to its founders, Funded Justice was created because too often attorneys hear, “I don’t have the money for an attorney;” they believe that proper legal representation should be available for everyone, not just those who have the funds readily available to be able to pay for an attorney when a legal situation arises.
According to Minimalist Law, its focus is on humans, on humility and on "living wage" altruism. In order to qualify for Minimalist Law, a case must ideally conclude within 6 months, for less than $5,000, and provide a service not otherwise provided by pro bono providers. Office space is "sourced" from the community and a predetermined daily rent is paid for use. In addition, solo and small firm lawyers in need of maternity leave, addiction treatment, vacation, personal leaves, and other "life" matters can request a Minimalist Lawyer to assist with their practice while away.
Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics
The Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics (MVLC) are brief civil legal advice and referral services staffed by volunteer law students and licensed attorneys. The MVLC provides services most days of the week at a variety of locations. According to its submission, Marquette University is located in downtown Milwaukee, a city ranked the fourth most impoverished cities of its size with nearly one-third of residents living at or below the federal poverty level. The MVLC is part of Marquette’s commitment to creating a better Milwaukee.
University of North Dakota School of Law Rural Justice Program
The Rural Justice Program (RJP) is a partnership among the UND School of Law, the State Bar Association of North Dakota, and the North Dakota state courts to encourage law students to pursue legal careers in rural communities in North Dakota. Each summer, stipends are awarded to 7 or 8 students who secure summer legal employment in a rural community with a state judge, a state’s attorney office, indigent defense services, or a solo or small law firm. The RJP also provides educational and career development programming for law students.
Bridge to Justice
Bridge to Justice is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides reduced-rate civil legal services to low and moderate income individuals along the Front Range in Colorado. Its mission is to ensure that clients receive equal access to justice regarding civil legal issues that significantly impact their lives. B2J focuses services in areas of the law in which there is the greatest need. Approximately 90% of agency cases involve pre- and post- decree divorce, child custody disputes and civil protection orders. The remaining 10% of agency cases involve landlord-tenant and consumer protection issues.